“Afghans almost always cave,” Ann Marlowe writes, “when there is a chance to make a moral stand.” She is referring to the unwillingness of many Afghans to stand up in opposition to not just the Taliban but also to the warlords and thugs who are currently running the country. Marlowe went on to complain that Afghans usually blame us for their problems.
These two sides of Marlowe’s piece, placed at opposite ends (the latter at the beginning, the former at the end), belie how misplaced Marlowe’s outrage is. The U.S. is empowering thugs the Afghans dislike as much as the Taliban; after quoting a former MP from Ghazni saying that people are afraid to speak up against the Taliban because they fear reprisal, Marlowe doesn’t explain what Afghans are supposed to do about it. Yet, rather than blaming American fecklessness for putting in place an alternative to the Taliban that many see as just as bad, she blames the Afghans—elite Afghans, as it were—for not complaining about it more often.
It’s easy for Ann Marlowe to complain about Afghans being unwilling to take a stand. She lives, according to her media friends, in a million-dollar “bohemian Greenwich Village brownstone” in Manhattan. When she’s done with her month of interviewing people in Kabul, she’ll return to Manhattan and continue to write about those cowardly Afghans who won’t risk everything—including their lives—for her ideals.
Afghans have to deal with the long term consequences of their choices; what is Marlowe’s alternative? She hints at one, when she says the U.S. needs to leave and needs to let them “make of their country what they will.” I wouldn’t agree more, but in the meantime, when explaining that most of Afghanistan’s problems are our fault, she’d do well not to blame the Afghans for it.